Advertorials placed in the press by Taiwan’s government on all levels blurred relations between the media and the government, and were becoming the main source of revenue for media, former (Chinese-language) China Times senior editor Dennis Huang (黃哲斌) warns. Huang resigned his post with the paper last month, the Taipei Times wrote on Tuesday.
China reportedly adopted the practise, too:
Antonio Chiang (江春男), a consultant for the Chinese-language Apple Daily, told a panel at the “Democracy Building in Interesting Times” conference in Taipei that the most serious threat to the independence of the Taiwanese media was advertorials placed by China under the guise of news reports.
Chiang said this phenomenon was a concern because China was willing to put ads in Taiwanese media to promote its image, media outlets that receive funding for such placements then “self-censor” their news coverage to avoid embarrassing or angering Beijing.
A visit by China’s negotiator Chen Yunlin to Taiwan is a less open affair than were certain Soviet propaganda events in non-communist countries during the past decade. Chen travels, smiles, and offers “opportunities”. If he was asked embarrassing questions, the way Soviet delegates and their fellow conferees were during the Waldorf-Astoria “Peace Conference” in New York, in March 1949, one may wonder which Taiwanese papers would cover the event extensively, if at all.
Just as Moscow rallied Western intellectuals to its cause of “peace” in the early days of the Cold War, a Congress for the freedom of the Culture, an organization sponsored by the CIA, rallied Europeans to its agenda. Not every supporter of the Congress was reportedly aware of its funding. Heinrich Böll, for example, is said to haven’t known.
The way China works its way through free societies isn’t harmless. Different from the USSR, it successfully presents itself as a honeypot for business. This is probably the main reason why the question if the CCP is an authoritarian or a totalitarian party isn’t even seriously discussed. The USSR offered barter trade opportunities at best.
But there are parallels between the Cold-War competitions for hearts and minds, and the current one made in China. In 1950, North Korea invaded the South. Soviet efforts to present itself as a power for peace suffered corresponding setbacks. China’s role as an Asian neighbor, beyond its support for Pyongyang, hasn’t looked too peaceful either, since last year. Beijing’s advertorials in the Taiwanese press, which reportedly began to appear in 2008, may be viewed as a game played by China’s propaganda departments and some not-too influential ministries, while the politburo is playing the more defining, and much less appealing game. When facts speak a different language from propaganda, the effect of propaganda itself is hampered.
Media which report about these issues most openly could be seen as more trustworthy than those who treat it as a rather small issue. But what really decides the matter is a judicious readership. If the markets refuses to buy bullshit, you won’t even need legislation. The editors themselves will then become the best guardians of good practise.
Hong Kong: How to Corrupt an Open Society, Aguust 29, 2009